Parallel Reasoning Strategies: Part II

Frustrated by Parallel Reasoning questions, even after lots of practice? I don’t blame you! It’s tough to tackle 6 arguments instead of 1, especially if pacing on the Verbal section is challenging for you. In Part I of this series, we looked at how to define parallel reasoning questions on the GMAT. Today let’s take a look at 3 steps to take in order to get these questions correct!

Step 1 – Break down the Argument into its Component Parts. What’s the premise? Any presented evidence? Where’s the author’s conclusion? Take as much time as you need, utilizing your scratch paper, to understand where all the pieces are and how they fit together.

Step 2 – Label the Logic. Describe the Logic in your own words. Using your scratch paper, write down your sense of the author’s reasoning. Some examples:

  • sweeping conclusion based on little evidence
  • analogy is being made that is based on flawed evidence
  • author makes a “should” claim based on a conditional premise

Feel free to use symbols and abbreviations. I’m a big fan of replacing phrases with “A”’s and “B’s” and using arrows to clarify how they relate to each other.

Step 3 – Eliminate choices that DO NOT MATCH the Logic. As we learned in Part 1 of this article, different topics, different arrangements of premises/conclusion, and different vocabulary are all okay in the correct answer, but MISMATCHED LOGIC is NOT, and cannot possibly be correct. Don’t be distracted by what the answer choices say. Look for how they are being reasoned. The million dollar question is: “does this match the Logic?” If no, cross it off and move on.

Let’s break down a sample argument:

Argument #1: At a certain club, the DJ should play hip-hop music if requested by more than half the crowd. Jay-Z’s latest single has been requested by more than half the crowd. Therefore, the DJ should play Jay-Z’s latest single.

Step 1 – The first piece of the premise is in the form of a conditional statement. X (“DJ…play hip-hop”) should happen if Y (“requested…”). Then we’re given a fact: Z (“latest single”) has been Y (“requested…”). The conclusion comes last: X “should” play Z.

Step 2 – Here the author makes a conditional conclusion based on a conditional piece of evidence and a fact. The correct choice is likely ALSO going to make a conditional conclusion based on conditional + fact. It could be in the same format: X should happen if Y; Z has been Y; X should Z. OR, it could be in a slightly different format.

Here is the correctly parallel argument:

Those who would wish to save in the short-term should not invest too much of their money in mutual funds with long-term growth. Mary-Ann does not want to invest too much of her money in mutual funds with long-term growth, so she would not wish to save in the short-term.

Just like the initial argument, the conclusion is a conditional, and it contains a conditional + fact as part of the premise. In symbols: X should not Y; Z does not Y; Z does not X. Don’t worry too much about the “should” versus “should not” – remember: it’s the method of reasoning that matters!

Look out for Part 3 where we’ll tackle a full question and set of answer choices!

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Vivian Kerr is a regular contributor to the Veritas Prep blog, providing tips and tricks to help students better prepare for the GMAT and the SAT.